Did Taylor Swift join Travis Kelce for his birthday yesterday? Will she attend his game this weekend? Heinz has created a custom sauce in response to a viral photo of her at a recent Chiefs game. Their friends say she is “really enjoying getting to know Travis” and that he is “completely smitten” with her.
Now you know everything I know and don’t know about this “pop cultural moment,” as the NFL describes the couple and its coverage of their reported romance.
Now consider these headlines on this morning’s Wall Street Journal website: “Violent Crime Is Surging in DC”; “US Jet Shoots Down Turkish Drone Over Syria”; “GM Has at Least 20 Million Vehicles With Potentially Dangerous Air-Bag Parts”; “Army Plans Major Cuts to Special-Operations Forces”; “China Is Becoming a No-Go Zone for Executives.”
Which story would you rather think about today?
A world that is all about us
In Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, the American writer and educator Neil Postman warned that television was transforming our engagement with the world from one in which we process information actively to one in which we experience entertainment passively. He argued that a particular medium can only communicate a particular kind of idea. Print is essential for rational inquiry and argument, in his view, while televised images are most useful for evoking emotions and entertaining viewers.
He pointed to television news as an example, with its use of theme music, journalistic actors, and highly produced images and videos. The result for viewers is less that they are informed than that they are entertained and thus susceptible to consuming what is being advertised, which is the real goal of such programming.
Postman issued his critique in 1985. What would he say of a culture dominated by social media and TikTok videos?
Now add the influence of consumption-driven capitalism: consumer spending accounts for about 70 percent of the entire US economy, which means our financial system depends on convincing us that we need to buy what advertisers are selling. From morning to night, we live in a culture that centers on us as the customer. We get to choose the news we consume, the entertainment we experience, the products we buy and use.
“Until the nation pays homage again to God”
Abraham Kuyper (1837–1920) was Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901 to 1905. Previously, he served as a newspaper editor and Parliament member before founding the Free University of Amsterdam, which took the Bible as its foundation for every area of study and knowledge.
His famous declaration answers our question: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’” In his book To Be Near Unto God, he explained:
The fellowship of being near unto God must become reality, in the full and vigorous prosecution of our life. It must permeate and give color to our feeling, our perception, our sensations, our thinking, our imagining, our willing, our acting, our speaking. It must not stand as a foreign factor in our life, but it must be the passion that breathes throughout our whole existence.
Consequently, Kuyper described the ruling passion of his life:
That in spite of all worldly opposition, God’s holy ordinances shall be established again in the home, in the school, and in the State, for the good of the people, to carve as it were into the conscience of the nation the ordinances of the Lord, to which Bible and Creation bear witness, until the nation pays homage again to God.
“Lord, open the King of England’s eyes”
The Bible resoundingly proclaims that our God is the Lord and ruler of every dimension of every part of the universe in every moment of every day. You and I were created by our Creator for a holistic relationship with him. The splitting apart of soul and body, spiritual and secular, religion and the “real world” that so dominates Western life originated with pagan Greek philosophers, not biblical truth.
Consequently, when we make the world about us rather than our Maker and segregate him to the merely “religious” moments of our week, we take up a weight we cannot bear. We become our own Atlas, the Greek god whose task of holding the sky on his shoulders was a punishment rather than a privilege.
Is it any wonder that we choose the distractions of pop culture over the hard work of responding thoughtfully and redemptively to the critical issues we face?
What we need is a holistic, unifying life mission, a purpose that gives meaning to every moment and dimension of our lives. God has such a calling for us, one that unites body and soul, mind and spirit, and infuses us with joy-filled abundance no matter the challenges we face.
Consider William Tyndale, the man more responsible than any other for the English Bible you and I read today. Condemned for his efforts to give his people a version of God’s word they could read for themselves, he was strangled on this day in 1536, then his dead body was burned at the stake. His last prayer was “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
And God did: three years later, Henry VIII required every parish church in England to make a copy of the English Bible available to its parishioners.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proclaimed, “If a man has not discovered something that he will die for, in a sense he is not fit to live.”
Are you “fit to live” today?
NOTE: The fall flash sale ends today! Act now to redeem 40% off any book in our bookstore. This is the last note you’ll receive from me about our fall sale, and it’s an excellent time to complete your Denison Forum library or to pick up thoughtful Christmas gifts. Use the code DFFALLSALE to redeem your 40% discount. If you’d like a suggestion, The Coming Tsunami could be my most pivotal book to date.